Poems in Abomination of Winter

I get my news about the U.S. rather slowly. For example, I only just learned of the snowstorm in the Northeast. Much as I would like to gloat and taunt my NYC-dwelling friends about the fact that it never snows here in Chengdu, the reality of the situation is this: I am drinking my coffee hot, the down comforters are on the beds, I am currently wearing two wool sweaters, and although I have not yet put on any thermal underwear, that moment is approaching rapidly. All of this can mean but one thing–winter has arrived–and there is no emoji capable of accurately depicting my feelings on the subject. Continue reading

La Dolce Vita?

I have wanted to visit Italy for a very long time. Naturally, part of Italy’s attraction is its historical richness, but for me, an even larger part is the food, the scenery, and the culture. Thanks to an ongoing scholarly workshop I’m participating in, I finally got a chance to find out whether the Italian life really is la dolce vita. What I discovered was–as I suppose it always is when you travel–different from what I expected. Continue reading

Falling in Love with Dante’s Divine Comedy

In his essay, “Why Read the Classics?,” collected in the eponymous volume, Italo Calvino argues that “… it is no use reading the classics out of a sense of duty or respect, we should only read them for love.” He adds, “It is only during unenforced reading that you will come across the book which will become ‘your’ book” (p. 6). I began reading Dante out of curiosity, but then I fell in love with an imaginative vision that dared what few authors have dared–and what no writer today would even consider. Continue reading

Breaking “The Great Taboo”: A Translation of Li Bai’s 李白 “Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon 月下獨酌”

There is a tradition among English-language translators of Chinese poetry to translate all Chinese poems as unrhymed free-verse. This tradition goes back at least as far as Ezra Pound–whose “translations” bear little resemblance to their originals–and is very much alive and kicking. So much so that I am borrowing the historian, Nathan Sivin’s, term–“The Great Taboo,”–to describe it.

Continue reading